Friday, March 11, 2011

Then Do Something About It

Matthew Tabor has a post on his very good blog titled Grass is Green, Sky is Blue (as Rome Burns or Something) where he talks about the annual Metlife Survey of the American Teacher. Matthew pulls this quote from the study regarding the aspirations of students wanting to go to college and the actual realities:
That could be a challenge for some, however, as teachers surveyed said only about 63 percent of their students would be prepared for college without taking remedial coursework. Teachers estimated about half of their students would graduate from college.

Matthew asks why that little nugget is not a headline. I have a more important question:

If teachers are aware of the lack of preparation--then why isn't more being done to prepare the students for college without needing remedial work?


Matthew K. Tabor said...

I don't even know where to begin - other than saying that no one will take responsibility, which is usually a good place to start.

Will teacher prep programs admit to pulling their students from the bottom third of the achievement scale?

Will schools admit they just 'do what they do' - light on evidence/research, heavy on theory and ideology?

Will unions admit that some of the policies they support, like last in/first out and tenure, contribute to the problem of denying kids access to a solid K-12 education?

In order: No, no, and not as much as they should.

It's a mess, in part because no one at the top will say, "We need to change."

Paul said...

Good question: “If teachers are aware of the lack of preparation–then why isn’t more being done to prepare the students for college without needing remedial work?”

One answer would seem to be that over the last decade so much policy emphasis has been placed on standardized test scores that don't measure the skills needed for college and careers. Schools, teachers, and students are too focused on paper and pencil tests that don't measure what students need to be ready for college. Based on most of the survey's responses to those are critical thinking, creative problem solving and team work.

Another answer, from the report, is the wide and growing range of differences in student needs in a single classroom and wide disparities in resources to address them. Those differences include poverty, English language learning (and many different "first" languages), special needs including high ability, learning styles, varied levels of past achievement, stages of social emotional development, family and community support, etc. How can one teacher whether teaching 30 students in a class all day, or 120 or more for an hour, address all those needs well? Technology is one potential answer, and help from other teachers another, as well as research grounded methods and materials... all require time and dollars that aren't there.

You question seems the same as saying "we know what causes cancer, or obesity, or unemployment, why don't we eliminate them?

Part 2 of this MetLife Survey addresses "Teaching Diverse Learners". Maybe it will help answer your good question.

Matt Johnston said...


I kind of see where you are going with this, and while all those factors are a concern--it is not like they are new concerns. Education policy and teachers have struggled with special needs kids, high ability kids, poor emotional/social and economic backgrounds, diversity in terms of background, ESL students and the like for decades. If this was the problem 30 years ago, it seems to me that we haven't exactly advanced in our classroom results, even if we know what the problems are.

In a way it is like cancer treatments, or unemployment, it is a complex question, but it does not seem to be a question that garners as much scientific and fact based research as cancer treatments or even the social problem of unemployment. If education is to be a priority in this country (and it should be), the why don't we as a society spend as much money on proper research in education as we do on cancer research or unemployment?

Paul said...

Matt Johnston, when you US economy was focused and agriculture and manufacturing, a person could drop out of college, get a good paying job with benefits and security. Those jobs no longer exist. The knowledge economy requires thinking and continual learning, and often knowledge beyond what high school offers.

All those complicating factors of student differences that you and I both listed have been around, but it was not essential to address those needs because there was good work to be had without a formal education. Now we must educate all students to higher standards, while poverty and its effects are increasing, two parent families are becoming rarer, Enlgish language learners have dramtically increased in schools, and special needs students have been mainstreatmed into regular classrooms. It's a lot for an individual teacher to address, alone. The investment should be in helping teachers have time to collaborate with each other, so every student gains the benefit of the knowledge and experience of every teacher in the school and beyond it. But time = money and we are drastically reducing not increasing school budgets.

Thanks for the chance to comment.

Paul said...

Shoud have said "drop out of high school," not college.